“So what happened next? You left us all hanging! You need to keep posting”
Last weekend we were out celebrating a family birthday, back in England, when the birthday boy surprised me with this question. It’s true, I’ve neglected my blog – Workaday life very quickly got in the way, as soon as we got back to England, as it tends to do. But after that impassioned plea I thought I’d better buckle down and write another post. I’m just chuffed to bits that anyone is reading it!
We had just 3 days at the mill before we had to come back to England and the reality of earning a crust. It almost seems like it happened to someone else now that we have been back for 3 weeks. But those few days were busy and wonderful.
Our first encounter with the friendly folk of our new village happened as we strolled around the village square on the Friday lunchtime after signing the Acte de vente. We had picked up the van full of our furniture and were killing time until we were due to meet Monsieur and Gérard at the mill to note meter readings and so on and start to move in.
Another little detail that Monsieur had reneged on was to ensure he had had the chimney swept and given us the mandatory, annual certificat de ramonage. We’d agreed that we would see to this ourselves, and with winter approaching and the fireplace our only source of heat until we had sorted out the non-functioning central heating system, ( I know! What were we thinking of when we bought this place?), we wanted to get it done ASAP. So when we saw a van parked up in the village advertising the owner’s expertise in roofing, chimneys and chimney sweeping we hurried across and accosted said artisan as he descended the ladder from the roof he was working on. If he was surprised to be approached by two excited Anglais, asking if he could possibly come and sweep our chimney that weekend, he didn’t show it and politely talked us through all the appointments in his enormous old-school hardback paper diary that he pulled out of the van. So and so’s flashing, Madame’s leaking roof, the meeting of the local fire brigade which he definitely couldn’t miss… (We later found out he is the chairman of this august body) Finally he agreed to come round at 8am the following morning to sweep the chimney.
Monsieur Lebrun turned up as agreed, stuck his head up the chimney, sucking in a long breath between his teeth and shaking his head at the appalling state of it. Then he set to, moving in all his equipment and erecting a huge ladder up to the roof to inspect the zinc chapeau, the metal capping that should have been preventing rain from pouring down the chimney but which our mill was wearing at a very rakish angle, such that it was not providing any protection from the elements at all.
This obviously could not be permitted to remain in this state, said M. Lebrun, and had we noticed any damp patches on the landing? There was a water mark near the chimney breast upstairs, which we had added to the ‘better have a look at that at some point’ list, but alerted to the somewhat quirky approach to DIY that the previous owner had exhibited in recent years, M. Lebrun proceeded to rush up into the enormous attic to attend to the problem. (Well, two problems to be exact) Firstly, one of the two skylights in the roof had been left open, letting in rain for goodness knows how long. A battered ladder propped against the beams by the window suggested that our predecessor had been doing some work recently, as I don’t remember it being there when we first visited the attic in April. On closer inspection we found out what he had been up to. In an attempt to improve the TV reception to the house, nestled in the bottom of the valley, he had installed a new television aerial. The aerial was mounted on a long telescopic mast, but apparently not long enough, as Monsieur had decided to extend it by sticking it into the top of an accro prop (one of those extendable scaffolding thingies that builders use to support sagging lintels and the like). Rather than fixing this securely to the exterior masonry he had removed a large slate and poked the accro out through it, leaving another large ventilation ‘feature’ in the roof for the rain to pour through. The large pile of cigarette butts and beer bottle caps lying around on the attic floor was testimony to the time and effort that had gone into this home improvement. That he had managed neither to break his neck nor burn down the building in the process is a miracle.
The chimney swept and (almost) sparkling, M. Lebrun returned the following morning (Sunday) with a new ‘hat’ for our chimney and a replacement slate to fill the hole in the roof. As he left, wishing us Bon courage for our renovation, we felt we had made a good impression and we’re certainly looking forward to meeting more of the locals.
A couple of hours later as Colin and I sat having lunch, looking out over the river, something shiny and brightly coloured on the wooden decking of the old gangway outside the window, caught my eye. My first thought was M. Lebrun had a left a can of Red Bull there while he was working. Then I realised that it was a kingfisher using our balcony as a handy perch to fish from. How I love this place!
We’ve certainly not been kicking our heels on Project Moulin since we got back to England. One of the cars has been sold and replaced with a nifty white van – ideal for carting DIY materials across the Channel and assorted building debris from mill to local recycling facility. I have been pretty much glued to Pinterest, (collecting ideas for the house) and Ebay, Gumtree and Tradeit (on the look out for bargain buys!)
We’ve decided that our first project will be the upstairs bathroom. Here’s a sneaky peak at what it looked like when we first moved in – well, it still does actually,given that we’ve only had 3 days in the mill so far!
It’s certainly the biggest bathroom I’ve ever had, but there’s very little in it. I want to put a lovely free-standing bath in there – just because I can. Colin doesn’t see the point in bath tubs but I envisage a long soak at the end of a hard day of DIY. You know…windows wide open , the sound of the crickets and birds in the acacia trees, glass of wine in hand as I soak in the hot bubbles.What do you think? Any ideas on what we should do with this blank canvas? I’d love to hear your ideas.